Judge rules that Trump must testify during New York's investigation
NEW YORK (AP), Former President Donald Trump must answer questions in New York's civil investigation into business practices. A judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump, his two oldest children, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. to comply with subpoenas that were issued by New York Attorney General Letitia Jam in December.
Engoron stated that Trump and his children must be present for depositions in 21 days. This was after a hearing with James' and Trump's lawyers. Engoron stated that Trump and his two children must sit for depositions within 21 days. This was after a hearing with lawyers from James' office and Trump.
Trump described the ruling as "a continuation of history's greatest Witch Hunt -- and, remember, because Judges and the judiciary hate me, I can’t get fair hearings in New York." It's impossible."
James stated in her own words that no one would be allowed to stop justice being pursued, regardless of their power. "No one is above the law."
James, a Democrat said that her investigation revealed evidence Trump's organization, The Trump Organization, fraudulently valued assets such as skyscrapers and golf courses to obtain loans and tax benefits.
Engoron was told by Trump's lawyers that he is being called for a civil deposition while his company is under criminal investigation. This is an inappropriate attempt to circumvent a state law which prohibits prosecutors from calling anyone to testify before a grand jury of criminal prosecutors without giving them immunity. In the hearing, Trump's criminal defense lawyer Ronald Fischetti said that he gets immunity for what it is he says or nothing.
In the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe, anything Trump says in civil depositions could be used against him. Fischetti stated that Trump could invoke the Fifth Amendment to hurt any potential criminal defense.
Fischetti stated, "That'll appear on every frontpage in any newspaper in the world." "How do I pick a jury for that case?"
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the attorney General's Office, stated to Engoron that it was not unusual for civil and criminal investigations to be proceeding simultaneously. A request by lawyers for Donald Trumps to suspend the civil investigation until the criminal case is resolved was rejected by the judge.
"Mr. Trump is indeed a prominent individual. Wallace stated that this is a unique situation. It's unusual that so many people pay attention to the rather dull hearing on subpoena enforcement. The legal issues we are dealing with here, however, are fairly standard.
After James' investigation ended, Engoron had previously ordered Eric Trump to testify in 2020. His lawyers had abruptly cancelled a scheduled deposition. In his interview, Eric Trump invoked hundreds of times the Fifth Amendment. When James asked him questions, Allen Weisselberg, chief finance officer of Trump Organization, did the same.
Alan Futerfas was a lawyer for Ivanka Trump Jr. and Donald Trump Jr. He said that he has no reason to believe that either of them are criminal targets.
Alina Habba, Trump's lawyer, accused James of "selective prosecution" and claimed that the attorney general is "engaging [in viewpoint discrimination] motivated by her political ambitions" and disdain for former Republican president, as exemplified by comments she made throughout the years about going after Trump.
Habba stated that this is an exceptional case in which we can prove selective prosecution. She's spoken out so strongly and used every opportunity to vent her hatred against Donald Trump and his family, and she was able to do so because of Habba.
Wallace pointed out that the state attorney general was looking into Trump-related issues as early as 2013, well before James was elected. This included probes into Trump's charitable foundation and Trump University's training program.
Engoron stated that the thousands of pages of evidence that he has reviewed in the case show there is sufficient basis to continue the investigation. He also said that it undercuts the notion "that this ongoing investigation was based on personal animus and not facts."
Engoron also took advantage of the fact that Trump's long-standing accounting firm sent him a letter this week advising him not to rely on financial statements it had prepared over years based on his company valuations. This was in response to questions about their accuracy.
Engoron called the letter a "red flag warning that Trump financial statements were unreliable" and criticised Trump's company for claiming, in a statement made to the media, that James' investigation should be stopped because the accounting firm didn't conclude that there were material discrepancies. He wrote that this claim was "as outrageous as it is absurd."
The Manhattan district attorney's office in Manhattan brought Weisselberg and his organization to trial for tax fraud last summer. They were motivated by the evidence in James' civil investigation. Weisselberg was accused of collecting more than $1.7million in compensation that was not on the books. Weisselberg, along with the company, pleaded not guilty.
A separate ruling was made on Thursday by a judge ordering Weisselberg to appear in Washington, D.C., for the limited deposition of Attorney General Karl Racine, who is suing Trump's inaugural committee for grossly overspending at Trump’s Pennsylvania Avenue hotel in order to enrich Trump family.